FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — Quincy Enunwa broke the huddle and took his position on the left side of the Jets’ offense at the 19-yard line of the defense, waiting for Sam Darnold to call for the snap.
Darnold barked out the signals — “Red 80! Red 80! Hut!” — and got the ball. As the quarterback faded back in the pocket, Enunwa raced upfield and quickly made a cut to the middle on a slant route. Darnold delivered a crisp pass that went slightly above Enunwa’s head, but he snatched the ball with both hands, brought it down and raced in for the touchdown.
It was just another training camp pass on Sunday morning, but it also was another reminder of a quarterback-receiver connection that could figure prominently . . . perhaps for many seasons to come.
With Darnold looking more and more as if he’ll begin the season as the Jets’ starter, having Enunwa as one of his preferred targets would serve as a huge boost to the offense.
“We want to make those connections as often as possible,” Enunwa said after practice. “For me, it’s about getting confidence that I’ll make the play. As we go forward, whether it’s [Darnold], Teddy [Bridgewater] or Josh [McCown], they’ll know that I’m there for them.”
Having Enunwa back is a huge plus for a team that can use as many quality skill position players as possible. He missed the entire 2017 season after undergoing neck surgery, and now that he’s back from a two-week absence because of a thumb injury, Enunwa adds an important piece to the Jets’ offense.
He looked terrific in practice Saturday, and there was more good stuff Sunday.
“He looked quick. He should have the freshest legs in camp,” coach Todd Bowles said. “He caught the ball well and we’re working him in slow as well. Just happy to have him back.”
Enunwa said any concerns about the neck problem that prompted surgery are in the past.
“I mean, when you look at my position, you don’t really see guys with neck injuries,” he said. “I knew it was one of those things that was kind of a freak injury. It would be a lot harder for it to happen.”
In some ways, the time away from the game helped. It gave him a greater appreciation for playing, because it was taken away from him by the surgery and long recovery process. But it also allowed him to gain a better understanding of route-running concepts.
“I got to see the game from the outside in,” he said. “I think I’m a pretty cerebral player, and I like to see things and imagine how it’s going to play out or what should happen. It gave me a chance to look at it and see if this could happen, or that this is what I could do if I was out there.”
Being out of the lineup was a huge blow for both Enunwa and the Jets. A sixth-round pick out of Nebraska in 2014, he had a solid season in 2016 with 58 catches for 857 yards and four touchdowns. The 6-2, 225-pound receiver displayed a rare combination of size and speed, and he looked to be emerging as a potential star before the neck problems.
He now has another chance, and he’s anxious to build on what he did two years earlier.
“That [2016 season] gave me confidence,” he said. “I’m like, ‘OK, this is what I’m capable of doing.’ I’m just ready to go out there and try to do it again.”
He plans to get his first game action on Friday when the Jets face the Giants in their annual preseason matchup.
“That’s the hope,” he said. “We’ll see how everything goes. I’m anxious to get back out there.”
The Jets are anxious to get him back out there, too.